It’s 2019, and people need to understand that child marriage is a misogynistic, oppressive and gross misnomer. Child marriage is sex trafficking. Pedophiles and their apologists might argue, however, this is the true nature of child “marriage.” No child can consent to marriage, and parents embody an instrumental role in further oppressing and degrading their daughters. I’m of Somali origin and this happens quite frequently back home and even right here. It is absolutely horrendous and outright disgusting. Forced marriages, child rape, and human trafficking are extremely common among young girls whose futures remain void and sabotaged. Have you ever wondered why Muslim clerics insist on finding loopholes and religious “evidence?” It’s because they’re also pedophiles. No amount of dogma will ever make this practice moral or ethical.
Child marriage is rape. Rectifying laws to protect at-risk girls isn’t justice. Justice entails never having to experience sex trafficking. Justice also entails quality, free education, reproductive healthcare and training, equal opportunities, liveable wages, and safe housing. I wrote about reproductive coercion in a previous post where I discussed the experiences of women in my family who were not only forced to marry young but were also forced to carry pregnancies to full-term in order to maintain their US visas.
The exploitive nature and power dynamics of child sex trafficking extend beyond borders and across generations. Reproductive coercion occurs across the lifespan. It’s a form of grooming that begins early. Reproductive coercion begins by forcing young girls to wear hijab, monitoring and controlling their every move, and denying opportunities, resources, and support if they choose their own paths. It’s even happened to me. I have to contend with a gender/racial wage gap, economic uncertainty about the future, student debt and racist immigration policies on top of fighting against a brutalizing and degrading patriarchal system.
Normalized sex trafficking happens whenever 17-year old girls are coerced into marrying 34-year old men. Young girls who don’t yet have power over their financial security, career opportunities, reproductive autonomy or even decision-making power are most at-risk. Forced early motherhood is also very uncommon. Women experience lost childhoods, become surrogate parents before they’re able to legally drive, and forced into marriage before they’ve achieved financial independence. I write a lot about financial freedom, surrogate fatherhood and eldest immigrant daughter guilt because I am still in awe that I finally have complete autonomy over my life. Coming from an upbringing where I was told I wasn’t going to have a future if I didn’t abide by an oppressive religion made it difficult to imagine a life without shackles. I feel immensely lucky to have made it to 28 and finally free of a life forced onto me. I’m the exception, not the rule.